Updated: Sep 12, 2020
You have customers that admire and respect you. They are your biggest fans. But the world doesn’t know it.
That’s because you don’t tell a real, flesh and blood story. You slap something together that’s generic, filled with corporate platitudes.
Your prospective buyers are clued-in professionals who can sniff out phoney customer success stories just by scanning headings, sub-headings and opening sentences of paragraphs.
While buyers want ever-more proof of your capability, they don’t want to be subjected to insipid brochureware masquerading as true stories of triumph over trouble.
Unfortunately, brand guidelines can sometimes render success stories sterile while the story format of 800-1200 words placed inside a two-sided brochure with headings like, ‘The Challenge,’ ‘The Solution’ and ‘The Benefits’ has been well and truly over-used by most IT companies. It’s time to retire this format.
Be Authentic Even If It Hurts
If you want to compose customer success stories that will super-charge your sales endeavours, the most important thing is to make them as real and raw as possible.
Don’t just mention the success of the project, talk about some of the struggles and even failures that you and the customer went through to achieve a measure of success.
You might find this idea radical and scary. But if you want to compete today where B2B selling is almost an extreme sport, you need to shake things up.
The Hero On A Quest Sometimes Battles Dragons
Of course, I’m not advocating making your organisation or the customer look stupid or incompetent. Talented corporate storytellers know how to position your customer as the Hero beating great odds to achieve an impossible dream. And they know how to deftly present you as the committed partner willing to move heaven and earth for the customer.
Whether in business or life, we lean toward stories of courage, persistence, and determination especially when the road to success is perilous.
Your prospective customers know that implementing new solutions and services is risky. They are under no illusions that a return on investment is guaranteed. Staff can be resistant to new processes and tools. Your customers need to and want to transform today, but it’s difficult in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world.
Knowing we operate in this world, we’re thrilled to read about a transformative IT project that has been a success and not a failure. We forget about the challenges; we’re excited about the possibilities for our success.
So write your customer success stories as a warts and all rollercoaster tale of battling demons and dragons before winning the keys to the kingdom.
Create Amazing Stories That Sell
While being authentic is the way to go, you also need to be innovative in how you craft success stories. Here are some suggestions:
1. Film customers in a spontaneous way at your internal or industry events. Do it like an exciting, live feed – 30 second sound bite. Keep it simple and ask one powerful question about their relationship with you.
2. Encourage your biggest customer advocates to create their own content either short videos or recorded messages talking about how your solutions and services are helping them solve problems and enabling them to innovate. Encourage uncensored, unedited, ‘in the rough’ comments. You can, of course, decide which ones you want to keep and upload to a public microsite called something like, “Up-to-The-Minute Stories from Our Customers, By Our Customers.”
3. Create a podcast called, “The Customer’s Corner” where one of your representatives talks about an industry or business issue with a customer with the opportunity for both of you to provide examples of success with your technology or services.
4. Have your CEO regularly interview a customer and film the interview. It doesn’t need to be a slick production; you can film it on an iPhone and keep the interview 5 to 10 minutes. Here’s the twist though, the CEO never interviews the customer’s CEO or a senior executive but talks to a user, an in-the-trenches staff member whose role has transformed from merely transactional to delivering value to their organisation through your technology.
5. Conversely, have one of your graduates or young professionals interview the CEO of your customer. Get them to come up with their own questions for the CEO from the perspective of someone at the beginning of their career. Again film or record the interview.
6. Keep a Captain’s Log. At the start of the transition or transformation project have your delivery leader and your customer’s counterpart keep a log of daily events. If the go-live is successful, publish the ‘Captain’s Log’ as a successful implementation/go-live story. Of course, you will need to summarise it and edit for brevity but keep it as close to the ‘real’ and emotional comments written by the implementation team.
7. Sign your name across my heart. At the end of a successful go-live/ implementation, have all of the teams on your and the customer’s side sign their names and leave a brief message on a mural, wall, large poster, virtual message board or on individual t-shirts. Have coffee and snacks for people while they do this and film the event and capture the buzz in the room.
8. Make a Time Capsule. Once you have a successful go-live, get people to write down on pieces of paper outcomes they’re looking for from the innovation you’ve brought them. Make sure you have different people do this from the customer’s CEO and management team to regular users and various departments. Film burying the capsule at the customer site. Wait 15 months to 2 years and dig up the capsule. Film people’s reactions when they read comments and ask them if what they thought would happen, did happen. Of course, you want a good mix of positive and not-so-positive results to keep it real.
9. Film a Michael Parkinson style of interview with the CEO or CIO of your customer. Create an intimate setting and have a warm conversation with your interviewee where the topics range from strategic insights, their partnership with your organisation, their highlights and low-lights, and get them to tell one or two personal stories.
10. Have 100 people from one customer do an individual LinkedIn style of video saying something positive about your company. This would be an ambitious undertaking and only possible if you served a global organisation that had high regard for you. Ask participants to film themselves in any chosen location like the office, their car, on the bus or train, at home, at a pub or in a park. Imagine collecting all of these individual comments from around the world and producing it as one success story video stream. The impact would be enormous.
I’ve got more ideas than you can poke a stick at, but the above is enough to give you some different ways to create amazing and authentic customer success stories to suit any budget or company culture.
Most of my suggestions focus on filming or recording the stories. Remember, you can transcribe the videos or recordings and re-purpose them as written customer success stories and short testimonials so teams can use them across the entire sales cycle.
Customer success stories are considered to be the best evidence you can use to convince prospective customers to purchase your B2B IT products and services. Read this article why evidence is crucial if you want to win more business, more often.